As I reflect on my career that started in 1970, the following guiding principles are top of mind: branding, communication and trust.
Your reputation is what others think you are; however, your character is what you are. After graduating from college as an English major, I worked in marketing for Proctor and Gamble — a great experience with life-long benefits. P&G, the premier firm for branding, taught me a vital lesson: “It’s the same suds in everyone’s box; it’s all about how you “package it.”
What is your brand? How do you package yourself, your products and your presentation? The items in your package are YOU. What you say, how you say it, spoken words, body language, punctuality, the way you dress, and demeanor are all components of your all important first impression, and they and make up your brand.
The initial goal is to connect with prospects because without a connection there can be no effective communication. The key to this connection is likability, which as multiple studies show, people determine in the first few minutes of your meeting with them. Achieving likability is the pathway to your ultimate goal of building a relationship based on trust.
In 1981, I wrote the following message on the ultimate goal of trust for the Penn Mutual Producer Magazine:
Trust: For a producer to be one of a client’s true advisors, rather than just a source of insurance policies, a relationship of trust must develop between the parties.
What is trust? From the dictionary: “Noun: confidence, reliance, implicit faith, moral responsibility. Verb transitive: to rely upon, to have implicit faith in. Verb intransitive: to be confident or to confide in.”
It is certainly obvious to all producers that if their relationship with clients and family can be described thusly, their business and personal life would be both productive and enjoyable.
How can this level of trust be obtained? Trust, like all worthwhile traits, develops over time and like loyalty, must be earned. Unfortunately, trust that can take years to evolve can be lost in a moment with one spoken word, a misbegotten deed, or perhaps even an improper expression.
Some producers are fortunate; the elements of their personality instantly create an atmosphere of trust – a rare quality.
Let’s look at some ideas that can help develop trust in your relationships:
When you have something to say to someone, look them right in the eye.
For a person to trust your solution, they must believe you fully understand the problem or goal. Therefore, listen intently, ask probing questions, and so on. A sale is often made by what we hear, not say.
Your client must believe that you care more about a proper solution to their problem than the commissionable products involved.
For new clients, do not get bogged down in the “Term vs. Permanent” debate. If they want term, sell it, and convert it later after your image of trust has developed.
Give sincere and candid responses to all questions even if by so doing it may reflect negatively on you or on your product.
Be proud of what you do, and that pride will be the major ingredient in your elements of trust.
Your word is your bond!
Trust, naturally, is a key element for a successful producer, but more importantly, your happiness in life depends upon it. Just relax, communicate, act naturally, and be patient.
“There will be no trust– before its time.”
Focus upon the relationship with your client, not on the transaction of the moment.
The bridge builder
The following poem by Will Allen Dromgoole, with our logo of the covered bridge, communicates our brand and theme effectively to our clients.
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
Our mission is to assist our clients to build their bridges for those that follow behind them.
The bridge I have built for my clients is my succession plan with my son Buck, who is now the managing partner of our firm, Estate Strategies, Inc. This is a great source of pride and good feelings that our clients need, which go beyond my time here, and will continue to be addressed to their best advantage.
In conclusion, be conscious of your brand, hone your communication skills and packaging, to the ultimate goal of establishing trust. Your career, productivity, and personal happiness will benefit!